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Another huge milestone on our road to a smokefree UK

Alizée Froguel
by Alizee Froguel | Analysis

16 April 2024

1 comment 1 comment

Person breaking cigarette.

This week, we’re celebrating another huge milestone on our road to a smokefree UK, as MPs voted in favour of the tobacco Age of Sale legislation (the Tobacco and Vapes Bill). That means we’re one step closer to ensuring that people born since the start of 2009 will never legally be sold tobacco products.   

This legislation could help prevent future generations from taking up smoking – the biggest cause of cancer in the UK. But we’re not at the finish line just yet.   

So, what happened at the vote? And where do we go from here? 

How did we get here? 

We know that nothing would have a bigger impact on reducing the number of preventable deaths in the UK than ending smoking. That’s why we’ve been campaigning for government action on smoking for over a decade and made it one of our five missions in our plan for longer, better lives 

A van holding a digital sign outside the houses of Parliament. The sign reads 'MPs, don't let smoke cloud your judgement.'
We’ve been spreading the message outside parliament for the last couple of days

Back in October 2023, we celebrated a critical milestone in our Smokefree UK campaign when Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced bold new plans for a ‘smokefree generation’

Then, last month, we shared new analysis estimating that up to 9.7 million fewer cigarettes will be smoked per day by 2040 if the Age of Sale legislation is successfully implemented across the UK.  

Many of our campaigns ambassadors and supporters have also been emailing their MPs to encourage them to vote in favour of the Tobacco and Vapes Bill.   

And we’ve been keeping the pressure up on government with our physical and digital ads, telling MPs not to let smoking cloud their judgement.   

What’s in the Age of Sale legislation? 

If it becomes law, the Tobacco and Vapes Bill will make sure that people born on or after 1 January 2009 (turning 15 this year) can never legally be sold tobacco in their lifetime, paving the way for the first ever smokefree generation.  

Smoking itself won’t be criminalised, and anyone who can legally buy tobacco now won’t be prevented from doing so in future.  

Enforcement officers will be empowered to give ‘on-the-spot fines’ of £100 to uphold the new laws and clamp down on underage sales of tobacco and vaping products. This builds on a maximum £2,500 fine that local authorities can already impose on retailers.   

The government has also already announced extra funding to help people who smoke quit, including a £70 million boost for local ‘stop smoking’ services.  

Alongside the tobacco Age of Sale legislation, the UK Government is also taking action to tackle youth vaping by making e-cigarettes less appealing to young people.   

They’ve recently announced a ban on disposable vapes, and have plans for more legislation introducing new powers to regulate the display, packaging, and flavours of e-cigarettes. Government statements suggest that’s likely to follow a public consultation on vapes. 

What does this week’s vote mean? 

The Age of Sale legislation has to get through some further Parliamentary processes before it can become law. After the title of the Bill was read out in parliament (also called the first reading) on 20 March, MPs had their first chance to vote during the second reading, which happened earlier today. 

MPs voted 383 to 67 in favour of the Bill – a majority of 316 – and it will now make its way to committee stage for further scrutiny. 

In the debate before the vote, politicians from all parties recognised the massive impact a smokefree generation would bring for the health of the country. Many also highlighted how Age of Sale legislation could help save the UK billions of pounds by supporting a more productive economy and reducing the burden on the NHS.  

Victoria Atkins, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, said the Tobacco and Vapes Bill would “free future generations from the tyranny of addiction and ill health. Similarly, Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting explained he was voting in favour of the legislation because he wanted to make sure “that today’s children are part of the healthiest generation that has ever lived.”

Meanwhile, Kirsten Oswald, speaking on behalf of the SNP, said it was vital the Bill passes and described it as ”a positive and necessary move”. Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Daisy Cooper also called it a “useful step that will help us to tackle the dangerous health impacts of smoking addiction, to improve population health and to take pressure off the NHS”. 

How our campaigners have helped make a difference 

From driving progress in cancer prevention and early diagnosis, to improving scientific research and access to treatments – Cancer Research UK campaigners are key to making policy change happen.  

Savyata (middle) with two other campaigns ambassadors at a SmokefreeUK campaign event
Savyata (middle) at a SmokefreeUK campaign event

Campaigners showed their support for a smokefree generation by sending nearly 2,500 emails to MPs ahead of this week’s vote. Overall, they encouraged MPs in 95% of constituencies across the UK to vote in favour of the Tobacco and Vapes Bill.

Over 125 of our volunteer Campaigns Ambassadors also signed a joint statement in support of the legislation. 

I feel very proud and happy seeing this legislation come to life. As a team we have made a huge contribution to achieve such tremendous work.

- Savyata, Campaigns Ambassador

The result of this vote is a huge success for us and our supporters, but there’s still more campaigning to come. 

The fact that we’re close to seeing this legislation become a reality isn’t just a win for charities like Cancer Research UK; it’s a victory for everyone that’s been campaigning alongside us during that time, too.

My family alone lost almost a dozen loved relatives over the past years due to smoking. I want to remind MPs that they have a responsibility to protect the health of young people in our country. They have the power to make this happen.

- Lynne, Campaigns Ambassador
Lynne, one of our campaigns ambassadors, outside the Houses of Parliament
Lynne outside the Houses of Parliament

Thank you to everyone that’s worked on and supported our Smokefree UK campaign – whether you’ve signed one of our petitions, responded to the consultation or emailed your MP. 

Smoking is responsible for 150 cancer cases a day. Our collective efforts to stop it are shaping a future where thousands more people can live longer, better lives, free from the fear of cancer. 

The next steps 

Things are moving in the right direction – but we’re not at the finish line just yet. Next, the Tobacco and Vapes Bill will go through a committee stage, where MPs in the committee go through it line-by-line and propose amendments.  

Then comes the report stage, where all MPs can propose amendments to the Bill before being invited to make a final vote on it. This process will then repeat in the House of Lords. After that, the Bill will go for royal assent, which is when the King agrees to make it into law. 

the Palace of Westminster

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  • Ken
    20 April 2024

    Well done may smoking dissappear!!!

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  • Ken
    20 April 2024

    Well done may smoking dissappear!!!

Tell us what you think

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Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read our comment policy.